Mike Ryan

Senior Research Associate


Mike Ryan has worked in K-12 education since 1995, first as a secondary science teacher (1995-2000) and then as an educational researcher (2000-present). Mike currently serves as a senior researcher at Georgia Tech's Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC), whose mission is to enhance PreK-12 and post-secondary STEM education by drawing upon the expertise and scholarly contributions of the Georgia Tech community. CEISMC’s research efforts allow for the identification and dissemination of evidence-based best practices in STEM education. Fittingly, Mike’s career has been dedicated to the development and practice of project-based, inquiry learning (PBL), and his training, experience, and creativity in PBL is what brought him to and allowed him to excel at Georgia Tech. This expertise underlies his leadership and contribution toward more than 15 sponsored research grants (with $32M+ of funding), his dozens of publications and presentations, and his impact on the Georgia Tech community, thousands of K-12 teachers, and even more students and stakeholders. Mike’s most significant contributions fall into three categories: 1. Project-Based Learning Research, 2. Innovating with Project-Based Learning in New Applications, and 3) Teacher Professional Learning with Project-Based Learning.
Mike’s background is promarily in science education, and his expertise is in the design and use of project-based learning strategies to target standards-based science learning. Mike has taught K-12 physics, physical science, and earth science. He has designed, conducted and evaluated hundreds of teacher professional development presentations, workshops and series for more than 15 years in multiple states. Mike served as the Co-Principal Investigator for the NSF-funded project Science Learning  Integrating Design, Engineering and Robotics (SLIDER, funded in 2009, $3.5M, 5 yrs). The project’s main goal is to investigate the use of robotics to help students learn physics. Mike oversaw curriculum development and teacher professional learning, while also designing research methods, assessments, and strategy for SLIDER. Mike also served in a similar capacity as a senior personnel on the NSF-funded project, Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Integrated to Unleash Potential (AMP-IT-UP. funded 2010, $7.9M, 5 yrs.).
Mike also co-conceived and co-authored the Culturally Authentic Practice to Advance Computational Thinking in Youth (CAPACiTY, funded in 2016, NSF, STEM+C, $2.5M, 3 yrs). He serves the project as a task leader, responsible for creating and writing the authentic and culturally relevant project-based computer science curriculum, using real-life issues (e.g., climate change effects on local communities, urban food desserts, cyber-bullying) to drive engagement among students. Mike co-leads professional development for teachers participating in the program, providing weekly coaching on PBL strategies and facilitation. He will assist in the analysis of data to answer research questions, and he will co-author journal papers.

More recently, Mike co-authored a new NSF grant proposal: Augmented Reality for Immersive Science Education (ARISE, DRK-12, $3M, 4 yrs). The project aims to investigate to potential use of augmented reality in the learning of middle school science. Mike co-authored the proposal, contributing to the PBL theoretical foundations and providing an extensive description of the curriculum to be developed. If funded, Mike would serve as Co-PI and the task leader responsible for all curriculum development and working with the software developers to integrate the augmented reality technology, interface, and capabilities into the curriculum. Mike would also help direct teacher professional learning for the project.
Mike has co-lead research and development of online learning. Through work originally funded by NASA, Mike designs and facilitates online learning courses in PBL for educators, incorporating the best practices for both online and face-to-face learning. From 2007-2009, Mike served as the co-director of student programs at CEISMC, where he oversaw the design and delivery of 30-40 annual K-12 academic enrichment programs.
Prior to CEISMC, Mike worked for 10 years as a researcher in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech on a PBL research project known as Learning By Design. The culmination of this was the publishing of the comprehensive middle school science textbook series Project-Based Inquiry Science (PBIS). The 15-book series provides three-years of project-based inquiry curriculum that employs engineering design solutions to everyday problems and questions, and has been adopted in states across the nation. Mike served as an author and lead developer for this project.